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Fined for log book mistake 3 years after charge

OUT OF THE BLUE: Driver Steve Murray was shocked to hear he had not been contacted for a fine that had been charged over three years ago.
OUT OF THE BLUE: Driver Steve Murray was shocked to hear he had not been contacted for a fine that had been charged over three years ago.

TRUCK driver Steve Murray had $2500 taken from his bank account and he did not have a clue of the reason for the withdrawal.

Like most, Steve, 62, admits he has probably made an administrative mistake or two in his years of driving.

However it wasn't until a letter arrived a month ago that, he found out that he had been hit with a three-year-old log book infringement.

The fateful letter from his bank advised him it had been directed by the New South Wales State Debt Recovery office to recover $2400 from his account, as payment for a fine imposed by the NSW judicial system.

After investigating the matter further, Steve discovered the fateful first letter, which would have told him of the offence and impending date to appear in court, and subsequent follow-up letters, had all been sent to the wrong address.

Instead of arriving at his correct address Francis Rd, Brahma Lodge, the letters had been sent to Francis St, Kidman Park, some 24km away.

Steve Murray and his wife on their wedding day.
Steve Murray and his wife on their wedding day.

The smarting truckie is now being told because the offence occurred more than two years ago he has no right to appeal the court judgment - something that was made without his knowledge or ability to defend himself.

"I am so pissed off - I have been found guilty of an offence that I didn't know about and wasn't given the opportunity to defend,” Mr Murray said.

"How can you be found guilty of something when you're not even there to defend yourself?

"I would love an opportunity to appeal the judgment but I have been told that is impossible because too much time has passed.

"Apparently only the Department of Justice (in NSW) can annul the original decision and have the case reheard - but I have been told that is extremely rare.

"I could fight the matter in court but that it would cost me more than the $2500 it has cost me so far.

"So, unless the NSW Attorney General is prepared to step in and do something, I will need to build a bridge and get over it.”

Mr Murray discovered his mysterious "cold case” started on February 12, 2014, when a point-to-point camera - used to measure the time taken for a vehicle to travel between two locations - challenged the time it took him to travel across the SA border into NSW.

Down the road he was stopped by RMS officers who checked the paperwork from Steve's logbook which showed a minor 30 minute discrepancy in when he took his regulated break - the catalyst which led to him being charged for providing deliberately misleading information in a log book.

Fortunately, Mr Murray has always kept meticulous and neat log books and has been able to check the entry from the day in question.

He knows the day well as it was his first day back at work after getting married earlier in the month.

Steve says the only explanation he can think of for the oversight was confusing NSW and SA time and the fact his phone automatically converted to NSW time once he crossed the border.

Not that Mr Murray is using that as an excuse, or that it should detract from his overall frustration, and the belief he has been let down by the judicial system.

"It's the principle of the matter that is driving me,” Mr Murray said.

"I feel like I want to check the Australian Constitution to see if someone can actually be found guilty of an offence without being in court to defend themselves,” he said.

"Surely common sense should have kicked in somewhere - the court case adjourned until they found me, or at least had some sort of reply from me.

"Ironically, I have since found out that a copy of the court judgment that was sent to the wrong address was returned as 'undeliverable'.”

Unfortunately for Steve, an appeal to the Attorney General to reopen the case may be his only option, according to Armstrong Legal Associate, lawyer Sarah Marinovic.

"In NSW a person who is convicted and sentenced in their absence can usually make an application to the Local Court to annul the conviction and sentence,” she said.

"There is a time limit for that application. Unfortunately, because Mr Murray has found out about the matter after so many years, the time limit to apply directly to the Local Court to annul the conviction and sentence has expired.

"If Mr Murray wishes to reopen the proceedings, he will need to make an application to the Minister asking for the matter to be referred back to the Local Court.

"My best advice is for people to always double check that the police officer has your correct address.

"As we have seen from Mr Murray's case, unfortunately you are likely to be the one disadvantaged if the police officer has the wrong address.”

Though the Magistrate has a responsibility to satisfy themselves that the individual has been contacted, RMS has advised the incorrect address may have been provided by the company he was working for at the time.

"Under the law, registered vehicle owners are required to supply the last known address of the driver of the vehicle at the time of an offence,” an RMS spokesman said.

"In this instance, the registered vehicle owner provided incorrect information which resulted in a court attendance notice not being received.

Mr Murray's correct address would have been easily located if cross-checked with the address listed on his South Australian driver's licence.

It is unknown if Mr Murray's details were verified with the relevant state road authority.

Roads and Maritime Services have advised they are reviewing the case and putting in place measures to ensure the issue does not occur in the future.

Mr Murray has since been put in contact with the NSW Attorney Generals office, in the hopes of updating this matter.

According to a spokesman for Revenue NSW, there were 54,533 similar garnishee orders issued to 47,362 customers in the last financial year.

Have you had work diary issues? Give Big Rigs a call to share your story. Phone 0738171769.

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